Review: The Wipers Times has an edgy nostalgia

George Kemp,. James Dutton, Dan Tetsell in The Wipers Times. Photo by Philip Tull
George Kemp,. James Dutton, Dan Tetsell in The Wipers Times. Photo by Philip Tull
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A touring production of The Wipers Times, by Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and panellist on Have I Got News For You, and Nick Newman, writer and cartoonist, was at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre last week.

Their play is based on a true story. In the spring of 1916, a group of soldiers of the 24 th Division of the Sherwood Foresters, led by Captain Fred Roberts, discovered a printing press in the bombed out ruins of Ypres (Wipers to the men).

Roberts (played with a roguish twinkle by James Dutton) decides to use the press to print a newspaper for the troops on the front line. In this he is aided by his friend Lieutenant Jack Pearson (George Kemp), and by Sergeant Tyler (Dan Tetsell) a printer by profession.

The newspaper is a great success – with the troops. But it runs into trouble with some of the officers, who object to its subversive humour.

The two modern-day satirists bring out the comedy and pathos of this remarkable episode.

The play uses music hall routines to bring the narrative alive – as Oh What A Lovely War did many years ago. There’s a fine scene when the men are preparing to go ‘over the top’. They share a bottle of rum – which helps them cope with their anxiety and fear. Their speech is brave, wry, understated.

This is a touching show fuelled by empathy and an edgy nostalgia.